Tag: steam

Valve and the Steam Universe

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Steam logo

So, the triple-play week of announcements for Valve is done, and we have some things we expected, and some we didn’t. Still no Half-Life 3 though!

I must say, I’m intrigued. SteamOS, combined with a hardware platform (Steam Machine) and an innovative controller, Valve is making an interesting push into the console market. And it’s the right moment, too. I’ve been commenting for a while about how disappointing the “next-gen” consoles are, and how their decision to go with an x86 architecture (except, our outcast, the Wii-U) will lead to almost every game being ported to PC. This is great for me, as I prefer PC gaming, and means I won’t need an XBone or PS4. I’ll stick with my PS3 as 3D blu-ray player and Xbox 360 thanks!

Valve have taken advantage of a weak play by Microsoft and Sony, and can capitalise on something both lack – a great release line up. They’ve clearly been plotting this move for a while, with their gradual move to Linux support and creation of Big Picture mode. It’s all been steps on the way, and quite clever too. When they launch, they’ll have all of their exclusives, Portal, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike and more, as well as the Linux titles. Admittedly, the Linux titles are lacking, for now, but clever collaboration with nVidia have resulted in proper graphical support incoming (see https://developer.nvidia.com/sites/default/files/akamai/gamedev/docs/Porting%20Source%20to%20Linux.pdf), and with this announcement, all the major players are porting or soon will be.

I’m excited to have an opportunity to beta test the console, controller, or both. Whilst I think that I’m not the target market of the Steam Machine (having a PC already) I’d love to be able to tweak it and play around. The controller looks like a proper development, and it genuinely could be the controller us keyboard+mouse wielders have been waiting for.

Check it out here – http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/ – Busy week for Valve – what do you think, worth the go?

– Zuki

Antichamber – You are not here

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Antichamber - Sometimes condescending
One box or two?
One box or two?

Not since Portal have I had this much fun playing a puzzle game. And there is a distinct feel of Portal going on here, with the clean whites, the clever puzzles, a strange gun, and the outlandish physics.

Is Antichamber just another Portal?

I sound dangerously close there to doing Antichamber a disservice – it’s also got its own unique feel to it, quite apart from Portal – no voices at all for one. In fact, for me it almost gives me a retro feel of sitting with a 2D Amiga puzzler; the days where back story and plot, celebrity voices are gone. This game is just puzzle and BGM, and very nice BGM at that. OK, so graphically it isn’t retro – it uses some kind of cell shading on top of the powerful Unreal Engine. It looks superb. All whites, blues, reds, yellows, greens. Bold block colour that stands out well.

The puzzles range from easy as pie to fiendishly difficult, and the game doesn’t give you clues in as much as it taunts you with a kind of “here’s what you learned” quote after each puzzle. It’s a nice touch – and I’m thankful for a puzzle game that pulls out the difficult mind benders, I know that I’ve often been frustrated that puzzle games just didn’t challenge enough to be satisfying. I’m still working out a few of Antichamber’s 😉 and i guess that’s why they can afford to throw in the difficult ones, because you don’t need to solve them all to reach the end.

Forcefields
Forcefields tend to eat blocks
D'oh!
D’oh!

Progress is through upgrading your ‘gun’ through the colours, in order for you to manipulate blocks. The degree to which blocks can be manipulated increases with higher colour levels, meaning that hard blue puzzles might become really easy with green powers, but that some puzzles must be solved to reach the new colour guns ensures you don’t get too easy a time. You don’t get too these new powers either, at one point I got stuck just because I never realised I could DO something.

The game suggests that it is a deeply psychological exploration game, and it feels it sometimes. The goal of the game isn’t really the ‘end’, its to solve all the puzzles, and in that sense, as I’ve said, I haven’t completely done it all.

Sometimes condescending
Sometimes condescending, these messages are your ‘completion percentage’

You can track your progress in this regard by the number of little pictograms / “what you’ve learned” / taunting messages you’ve seen.

The real standout is the non-euclidean nature of the game – the map just doesn’t obey the normal rules of the world. You might turn a corner, look back, and the corridor is gone. You can go up a set of stairs forever. A box open on one side might seem like a Tardis.

Atomic
Atomic ‘things’ are a recurring puzzle element

 

It’s mind-bending, but very fun. There IS a map, but it’s not as useful as you might think!

All-in-all, if you enjoy puzzle games, it’s highly enjoyable, cheap on Steam, and will definitely give you those frustrating but ultimately rewarding moments. I think I ‘finished’ it in <5 hours, which interestingly raptr was telling me (at the time, close to release I guess) made me only an hour’s playtime from number 1 player on the service, which I guess meant at first it snuck in under the radar. Good job, Epic. No real flaws, good difficulty curve, good total time, graphics, sound, style. If pushed, I’d struggle for a firm reason to dock the final point, but it feels like a 9 out of 10 for me.

– Zuki

I now officially have too many video games

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Star Ruler - The game in question, the cover grabbed me cos I'm a sucker for these kind of games!

I did something that finally made me realise I think I have too many games 😛 No “I told you so” please James!

So, I was in town, buying a present for my dad’s birthday, and also killing time because I had an appointment at Specsavers to go to. So, I call into Game, see if there are any bargains, and for the first time in a LONG time in Game, I look at their PC collection, paltry though it is. And I see an interesting looking space game – a soft spot of mine is space games in general.

The game in question, the cover grabbed me cos I'm a sucker

I barcode scan it with Google Goggles, to get reviews and price comparisons; no better online prices than £9.99 which is the Game price… and the reviews are average, 6 – 8 out of 10, so I decide to take a chance on it. I go home, and start playing Baldur’s Gate II again, without even opening it. “Aha!” you might be thinking. You might think that the fact I didn’t open the game immediately and try it as the sign I’m talking about. No. That is a bad sign 😛 but it isn’t what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is, the next morning when I go into uni, I have one of those weird brain moments where, for no reason, you think of something suddenly. And my sudden thought, “Hey, see that game I bought yesterday? Isn’t that one I bought on Steam a while back?”

Yup. Right there. There it is. “Star Ruler”

Aw crap. It was even installed, like I'd planned to give it a try sometime soon.
Aw crap. It was even installed, like I'd planned to give it a try sometime soon.

So, the good thing is I have the receipt, and haven’t broken the seal, so I can and will return it; I want my £10 back! However, it highlights a problem I’ve been having with Steam for a while now. I feel less like a gamer now, and more a game collector. Like stamps. Only for me it’s games, and the collector book is Steam. Take a look at this shit: http://steamcompanion.com/calculator/id/gyaku_zuki. 158 Steam games with a total value of $1746.43. Now, granted, most of my games were not at the price that calculator uses. Between free games, Indie Bundles, 75+% off deals on Steam, my real ‘spent’ total would be a lot less. But that is 158 games!!! And I assure you, a good half of those I have probably never played through!

I need to stop responding to these Steam sales 😛

Categories: featured games

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